Rose water has been used for centuries for religious and cosmetic purposes, as well as for flavouring foods. Roses can evoke day dreams of far-away lands where fat, pink roses bloom in palace gardens, swaying gently next to bejewelled statues. Or, it can conjure images of English country gardens, where rose bushes nestle between wildflowers as tipsy bees lazily flit from flower to flower.
One beautiful story I read as a girl tells of an Emperor who asked that all of the fountains and canals in his city be filled with rose petals to celebrate his wedding to his beloved princess. Following the ceremony, they strolled the gardens and she ran her fingers through a golden fountain, the water covered in ruby red petals. Delighted, she found that the fragrance of the roses clung to her fingers and her new husband had the water bottled in her honour. Many of us will remember as little girls, pilfering rose petals from Grandma’s garden and leaving them to soak in bowls of water, to make our own perfume, dabbing it lightly on our wrists.
With all of these romantic connotations, it is easy to overlook the versatility of rose water. A quick search online will reveal a plethora of uses, these are a few of my tried and tested favourites.
Be sure to purchase a natural brand of rose water; you don’t want anything laden with chemicals. You can usually find good quality rose water in the world food section of your local supermarket, or online, for very reasonable prices. Rose water reduces redness in the skin, brilliant if you suffer with dry patches or acne. It also softens the skin, leaving it as velvety as a rose petal! Soak a cotton pad with rose water and dab lightly onto your skin after cleansing, but before moisturising. For extra rose goodness, Korres produce a Wild Rose moisturiser which is softening, brightening and smells divine. Lush also offer a gorgeous rosewater toner called Eau Roma Water, which also contains lavender.
2. Gin Cocktails
There are many recipes online for rose water cocktails. Simple is often the most effective, especially when it comes to such a unique flavour. Find your prettiest glassware and pour in a generous glug of your favourite gin (Hendrick’s is perfect here). You can serve with a tablespoon of rosewater, some tonic water and a slice of cucumber. Mix and muddle things up with a dash of elderflower cordial, bitters, a pinch of cardamom and a squeeze of fresh lime. Serve with a sprig of fresh rosemary for the perfect beverage to serve at summer garden parties.
3. Ironing Water
Ironing is a pretty dull task, so how about filling your laundry room with hot, rose scented steam? For an easy way to fragrance your clothes with rose water, pour some into your steam iron rather than regular tap water or expensive store-bought ironing waters. This is such a simple tip, that there isn’t really much else to elaborate on, other than you really will look forward to dragging out the ironing board and experiencing fragrant, steamy clouds of scent.
This one is actually my boyfriend’s favourite when combined with lemon cake! Follow any standard buttercream frosting recipe, and add a couple of tablespoons of rose water. Test it as you go—it’s a subtle flavour, but overdo the rosewater and it can taste a little soapy. You can colour the frosting with a good quality food dye and use a piping bag to decorate your cake—go with the rose theme and see if you can pipe delicate little rose buds onto the cake. This is also an exquisite combination with any almond or pistachio cake recipes that you may have.
5. Iced Tea
Another simple recipe that you can enhance and experiment with as you like. For a simple rose water iced tea, simply take 2 bags plain black tea, 6 tablespoons of rose water, 4 tablespoons of agave nectar (or sugar if you prefer) and steep in 6 cups of boiling water. Leave to cool, and then pop in the fridge to chill. A tall glass of heaven served over ice with a slice of lemon. And though we’ve already discussed our gin cocktail, adding a dash of gin to this wouldn’t be unheard of in my household!
6. Fragrance Mist
Incredibly easy, pour some rose water into a spray bottle and mist your bed sheets, curtains or any other soft furnishings you can find. With air fresheners, you are polluting your home with a vast amount of chemical nasties. With rose water, you aren’t poisoning your living space with anything artificial. You could even add essential oils to create your own bespoke home fragrance, however rose water alone is enough to make your living room smell like a ethereal summer day.
7. Hair Conditioners
There are lots of ways to use rose water if your hair is dry, damaged or frizzy. You can mix it with another natural beauty marvel, jojoba oil and use as a conditioning treatment. Simply massage the mixture into your scalp and the lengths of the hair to deeply nourish your locks. You can also add a couple of drops of glycerin to help tame frizz, again massaging the mixture into your hair, leaving on for 30 minutes and rinsing out as normal. A decadent way to use rosewater is simply to use a cupful for your final rinse, not only leaving your tresses conditioned and shiny, but beautifully fragranced too. This is one to save before an evening out or a first date. Rose-fragranced hair is a sure fire way to leave a lasting impression on would-be suitors, how very romantic!
For those English roses among you, I highly recommend this brand found in Asda. For those of you in America, you could try this brand found on Amazon. Explore local markets, world food stores and online and you’re sure to find a beautiful bottle of versatile, fragrant rose water. Experiment and let us know what you come up with!
With short stories published in Magpie Magazine and Paris Lit Up, and several online magazines posting her views on everything from jojoba oil to drag queens, Kate is finding her writing groove and having the most amazing time doing it.
When she's not chewing on the end of a pen and scribbling down ideas, Kate likes to cook for friends, binge-watch the worst shows Netflix has to offer, make some strange shapes in Yoga and escape to far off lands in search of adventure and even more importantly; great food.
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